Lighting Effects in Worship
By Mark Logan
Using specialized lighting in worship can be a tremendous benefit in setting an appropriate worship environment–one that I endorse wholeheartedly. I have attended many churches that have done an awesome job of using lighting to create a great worship space. Recently I attended a church that I felt had taken lighting effects too far for worship. While everything done in the service was with great excellence, the fairly dense fog and moving lights that continued to sweep through the crowd seemed distracting. These elements seemed to create a concert environment rather than a worship environment, and I feel this is another way we can create a culture of spectators in worship rather than active participants. Guest writer, Mark Logan, of WorshipPlanning.com weighs in with a great article on lighting effects in worship:
These days, if you pay attention to forums or blogs, or anything similar, having to do with modern worship tech, you’ve heard a lot about advancements in lighting tech. This stuff is cool. Very cool, actually, when done correctly. Can lights. Spotlights. Laser lights. All kinds of lights. We, as the modern church, are quite lucky to have such cool rigging and lighting available to us, as well as awesome technology with which to control all these wonderful lights. It’d be a shame to not utilize this for our worship services. BUT . . . we have to be careful.
Many point out the trend in many churches that appear to indicate a movement towards “rock concert” more than “church service.” Now, this is NOT meant to turn into a debate or opinion piece on styles of worship, denominational practices, or even “seeker-friendly” churches. What I am more specifically looking at here is this: Where is the attention drawn? Are there distractions?
You see, we can overdo anything. We can overdo singing. We can overdo pushing for the offering. We can overdo being “dramatic” in our preaching. We can overdo instrumentation (seriously, who needs 7 different guitars on stage during a worship set?). And yes, we can overdo lighting.
At a rock concert, the lighting is meant to be part of the show. It’s meant to make you think the band is even more cool than you already think they are. And THAT is the distinction. In a worship service, what is your lighting scheme doing? Is it drawing attention to the band? Is it simply adding a “cool factor?” Or is it intentional, with the purpose of bringing these worship songs and lyrics even more to life? Do the lights help to draw people’s attention to Christ even more? Using our sense of sight is a powerful thing, and can absolutely impact the atmosphere of worship.
As an example, let’s look at “Nothing But the Blood.” This song is timeless, and powerful, and true. It stands perfectly well on its own. I can remember two specific times when we sang this hymn at conferences with very sophisticated lighting schemes.
One place had rapidly moving laser lights, big washes, and bright spots in random locations. It was very, very cool. And it was very, very distracting. Even with my eyes closed, I could see the lights darting to and fro through my eyelids. At a different conference, there were no dancing laser lights (at least not during this song). All there was, primarily, was a massive wash of red lights all over the stage. A sea of red. And during this song about the blood of Jesus shed for our sins, seeing this wash of red visually enhanced this time of worship. Not only was I singing about the blood, but I was visualizing the blood of Christ washing over everything. It was very simple, but it was extremely impactful.
This is what I am talking about. Laser lights are not a bad thing. And they can be used very effectively in worship. The key is this – what is your light “show” accomplishing? Is it just something cool to add into your church’s “What to Expect” section of your website? Or are you intentionally utilizing (and not utilizing, when appropriate) this technology to enhance the atmosphere of worship in your church? Are you using it to make the messages of our praise even more real to your congregation? In the end, are you using lights to point to The Light?
I don’t worry abut thie lights or the music, I worry about the people attending. No church isn’t suppose to be stuffy and boring on purpose but people who attend church should, SHOULD be saved born again with maybe some people who are just now coming to christ. Sadly what I see in many churches are Unsaved, un-convicted, biblically illiterate people who attend and don’t even believe the bible let alone even contemplate themselves. The physical building church is a place to worship Christ and they are now being filled with non-believers. Concert like productions mixed with weak lessons mostly on morality with a sprinkling of Jesus dust on top make up the majority of what I am seeing today. What this does is it creates cultural Christians and not saved followers of Jesus. They like that they no longer do drugs and people accept them but they do not like Jesus. They like the laser light shows and great music and inspirational messages but they don’t like Christ. They enjoy a motivational speakers message but they ignore or are not even are taught what Christ has done for us. They hear all the noise and are blinded by the multicolored LSD style trippy show just to get a zero King of Kings message. This will lead people to think they are saved but have not biblically responded to the message of Christ
Amen! I am so broken over the condition of the church. I don’t want smoke and lights and chest pounding bass to a feel good song in a church so dark I couldn’t see my Bible if my life depended on it!
These churches are NOT churches. They are sending souls straight to Hell! And I loved what you said about “Jesus dust” being sprinkled on top of the feel good motivational non Jesus message. They don’t/ won’t preach Jesus, they won’t preach Hell, or the virgin birth. It’s an absolute travesty! I’m so hungry for truth, but I can’t find it anywhere.
My church used laser lights for the first time and I do not like it. The music is already loud and they have gotten bright stage lighting. Last Sunday I wore my sunglasses during worship as it was so bright. They have earplugs in the back for the loudness if you want to use them. Now the lasers. I just don’t get what these things have to do with worship and find it very distracting. I had to keep my yes closed the entire time to try to focus. During prayer pastor told us to be still and quiet and focus on hearing what God wanted to say to us but there was so much reverb in the way loud background music I could not concentrate on anything else. Help, I don’t know whether to voice my opinion or leave this church which wasn’t like this a year and a half ago when we started attending. We are involved in ministries and my daughter loves the youth group. I love praise and worship and music but it has been more like a concert than worship lately. I expect way loud and a light show with lasers at a concert and will be seeing For King and Country tomorrow night and enjoying it but not in a church service. Is there something wrong with me or Am I right in feeling like there is no anointing in it?
As the main lighting operator and a large tech helper within a church that has a lot of lighting, I do almost completely see what you are saying. We don’t have any laser lights within our church, but we use plenty of moving lights and LED bars. I have received complaints about said moving lights being blinding and have sometimes been told about our light wall that has small circular cans there being blinding at certain times. I would easily recommend talking with the pastor or whoever heads the tech team at your church and let them know about your concerns. For a church, it shouldn’t be blasting loud that it hurts or blinding to the point of needing sunglasses. I view tech serving as a way of worship, but I am responsible about it too. If it is getting in the way of others trying to worship, then it won’t necessarily be that. It’s more or less noise at that point. I would be curious to see and hear myself as to how your church runs worship though. I’ve asked our audio guys and they said that since we aren’t in a residential area, they’re able to be a bit louder and I think have it in a range of 88-95 dB for worship, depending on what service it is. But I’m not certain as for your church if that is what they do, push louder since they are based in a non-residential area. I am curious as to that at least. From a lighting tech, I will say that I try not to be all soooo distracting, but aim to make it fit.
Well our church only for Wednesday night for the youth we have loud music and smoke stuff and laser lights and I love them because it brings me closer to worship. I would do what he said and talk to the light people or your pastor
i agree. laser light shows do not need to be in a church worship service. it is not a rock concert. how come services from past, even in bible, were able to accomplish this and/or more without it. the WORD should be doing the talking.
When I read Revelation 4, I see a light show described in an ancient way. Let’s not be so critical and keep an open mind in the body of Christ. No one worship will be the same. I’ve traveled to Africa and Asia and trust me their worship is way different than even a traditional service here in America.
A person’s feelings matter, especially when it comes to something as important as your personal relationship with God. If you’re not leaving the service feeling renewed and strengthened faith then those are valid feelings. When it comes to worshiping singing with the light of a campfire or reading your scriptures by candle light might serve some better.
The following verse tells us about the light that truly matters. “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” -John 8:12 Ultimately, pray about it and be honest about your true feelings. To me our faith is a lot like love. If it feels wrong to us then it is wrong for us.